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August - September 2008
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DESPITE LEFT PULLOUT, PM SAYS GOVT SAFE
The die is cast for July22.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that the Left's withdrawal of support would not affect his government's stability. Speaking in Japan on the sidelines of the G8 summit, Manmohan Singh told reporters that ''Left pulling out will not affect the stability of the government.'' He was reacting to the Left parties announcing earlier in the day that they were withdrawing their legislative support to the Congressled UPA government.
The Left withdrew support to the government, citing as immediate provocation the Prime Minister's statement in Tokyo on Monday that he would be going to the International Atomic Energy Agency soon.
Karat said, ''We have sent a letter to Pranab Mukherjee...In view of the PM's statement, we are withdrawing support.''
The Left parties were angry that Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave only an ''evasive reply'' to their July 7 deadline for letting them know when the government planned to go to the IAEA. Mukherjee had reacted to the ultimatum by inviting the Left for yet another round of talks.
Immediately after the Left withdrew support, Congress sources told NDTV that they had the support of Ajit Singh and HD Deve Gowda. Also that the Samajwadi Party now had to ''manage numbers.''
But Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh, who has three MPs, said later that he would first hold talks within the party before committing on anything. ''We have no alliances with any other party'', he said.
But Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh assured the Congress they would support the government on the nuclear deal. ''Every Samajwadi Party vote in Parliament will be cast in support of the IndoUS nuclear deal and to save the UPA government,'' said Amar Singh.
The BJP, meanwhile, has demanded that the government prove its majority in Parliament soon, terming the LeftUPA alliance as an ''unholy tieup forged only to keep the BJP out'' and one bound to break soon.
The Parliament is convened on July21; and the Trust Vote for the government will be taken on 22nd July.
PROTESTS CONTINUE OVER AMARNATH LAND ALLOTMENT
Srinagar: Despite the downfall of the Congress government and the President’s rule in Jammun & Kashmir, Protests in Jammu against reversal of decision totransfer a few hectares of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) have continued to disrupt normal life. Shops, schools and colleges in the city have been shut.
The valleybased political parties the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) are against the transfer of 40 hectares of forestland to the SASB where facilities for Amarnath pilgrims have been proposed to be built.
However, the two big national parties Congress and the BJP are supporting the project.
RAMIFICATION OF KABUL BLAST INDIA TO STRENGTHEN ITS PRESENCE IN KABUL BLAST
New Delhi: Bodies of the four Indians killed in the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul were flown into the capital in special Indian Airforce plane. Family members of the victims accompanied the bodies. Defence Attache Brigadier R D Mehta, Counsellor Venkateswara Rao, two ITBP personnel Ajai Pathania and Roop Singh were among 41 killed when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive laden vehicle into the Indian embassy premises.
Rao's body was flung over the roof by the impact of the explosion that blew off the embassy's gates and outer structure and damaged buildings inside the compound.
Afghan Interior ministry spokesman Abdul H Ashiq said the bomb was placed in a Toyota Corolla car driven by the suicide bomber who blew him up in front of the embassy gate.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attack and said he was horrified to know of the death of Indians in the attack.
The Prime Minister offered his deep condolences to the next of kin of the victims and those who have suffered grievous injuries.
"India is with the families of those bereaved today. We will do all that we can to help them bear their loss and grief. This is our pledge," Singh said.
It is the first major attack on an Indian mission abroad and the deadliest suicide bombing in Kabul since US led NATO forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001.
Foreign Secretary briefs IAEA
As the UPA government continues to face opposition from different quarters over the nuclear deal, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon briefed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the latest situation in New Delhi and the importance of India’s nuclear deal with the US. If he gets the full support of both the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers’group, the position of Dr Manmohan Singh’s government will be strengthened.
At the homefront, the BJP wanted an assurance from the government that in case of defeat in the Lok Sabha on Trust vote the government will withdraw the draft statement.
Meanwhile, the smaller parties in the Lok Sabha are enjoying the focus being put on them by the Indian media. MPs from Telangana have even proposed the name of Mayavati for Prime Minister in case Dr Manmohan Singh loses the vote Even Deve Gowda, from Karnataka, is grumbling that he has not been consulted about the nuclear deal. JMM party of Soren wants him to become Minister for Coal before they vote for the government. The price of each MP is going up faster than the inflation which is already 11.91%.
Rahul Gandhi and his Mum Sonia Gandhi have come out openly for the decision taken by Dr. Manmohan Singh. Says Rahul Gandhi, “I believe that you need guts to do it. I appreciate it. I would tell him (PM) to take the risk again again and again. That is leadership.” Similar sentiments were expressed by Sonia Gandhi at a recent rally in Maharashtra Vyalar Ravi, India’s minister for Parliamentary affairs, said that the Left had not yet reconciled to the country’s new economic power and its growing influence around the world.
He said,”The Left is yet to get over the B.T. Ranadive mindset and perhaps still subscribes to the theory of anarechy and turmoil.” The minister praised the role of Indians living in the US in extrating major concessions from Washingtonand said the civilian nuclear agreement was a tribut to India’s new clout in the world.
What is your opinion about the role of the left in bringing this crisis? What is their motive?
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DOMINIC GRIEVE: CHERIE BLAIR’S VERDICT ON CRIME UNDER LABOUR
Commenting after Cherie Blair said she feared for her children when they went out on the streets and warned that gun and knife crime among teenagers was more common then official figures suggest, Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, said:
“This is a sad indictment of ten years of failure. Tony Blair promised to get tough on crime and its causes but failed to do so. Under Labour drugs use, alcohol abuse and family breakdown have increased fuelling crime, especially violent crime.
“As for crime figures being underreported, one of the reasons people do not believe the Government are serious about dealing with youth crime is because their preferred method of measuring crime – the British Crime Survey – has to date not even included crimes involving under 16’s.
“Conservatives would deploy more police on the streets to catch and deter violent offenders, ensure more prison places so that serious violent offenders who should be in jail are in jail and tackle the long term causes of crime which lead to so much tragic violence.”
LORD DHOLAKIA: “PRISON OVERCROWDING IS LIMITING REHABILITATION”
Lord Dholakia, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader in the House of Lords, spoke in a debate on Prisons to explain the need for a Royal Commission into the state of British prisons.
He continued, “Although there has not been a royal commission, there have been a number of inquiries into the state of our prisons, from the Gladstone committee of 1895 to the Woolf report of 1991.”
Lord Dholakia explained, “The crucial contribution that the Gladstone Committee made to penal thinking was its insistence that reforming prisoners should become one of the primary aims of the prison system.”
He continued, “We currently have 148 people in prison for every 100,000 people in the general population, compared with 93 in Germany and 85 in France. As a result of our overuse of custody, we tolerate a routine degree of overcrowding which could have shocked the Gladstone committee.”
Lord Dholakia said, “Overcrowding means that 18,000 prisoners are held two to a cell, built for one person. It means that it is much harder for prisons to provide genuinely rehabilitative regimes which could reduce reoffending on release…It means that prisoners are often moved before they have finished educational and rehabilitative courses, which could have helped to reduce reoffending.”
He continued, “Most offenders who are sent to prison each year in England and Wales receive sentences of less than 12 months… Most of these offenders would be better dealt with by supervision programmes in the community. There are an increasing number of intensive and rigorous programmes, which make real demands on offenders and significantly restrict their liberty. They also hold out more hope of preventing reoffending than a short prison sentence…Getting offenders into jobs reduces their likelihood of reoffending by between onethird and onehalf. According to one study, providing offenders with basic skills education cuts their likelihood of reoffending by twothirds. Offenders who enter and stay in a drug rehabilitation programme have an average rate of reoffending which is onefifth of their previous level.”
Lord Dholakia concluded by saying, “The appropriate use of imprisonment and the need for rehabilitative prison regimes are inextricably linked. A royal commission with a remit to examine the use of prisons, the management of prisons and prison regimes could produce proposals for a more rational approach to imprisonment and one with a better chance of protecting the public through reducing reoffending.”
DOMINIC GRIEVE: CRIME STATS CANNOT HIDE LABOUR’S FAILURE ON GUNS, KNIVES AND VIOLENCE
The latest recorded crime figures have shown an increase in gun crime and recorded for the first time that 22,151 selected serious offences involved knives. They also confirmed that under Labour violent crime has increased by nearly 80 per cent, gun crime has nearly doubled and drug offences have increased by 68 per cent. Commenting, Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, said:
“While we welcome a drop in overall recorded crime these figures cannot hide some very chilling facts. The fact that violent crime has risen by 80 per cent under Labour and the scale of knife crime on our streets, officially recorded for the first time, is a shocking indictment of Labour’s failure to tackle crime and its causes.
“Our police have been tied up in so much red tape that they can only spend fourteen per cent of their time on the beat fighting crime. At the same time our porous borders have allowed too many weapons and quantities of hard drugs to simply flow into our country fuelling violent crime. Labour have also failed to address family breakdown which does so much to set young people onto a path of crime.
“Conservatives would start tackling this crime crisis by freeing our police from red tape and targets so they can be deployed onto our streets to catch and deter criminals, having stronger deterrent sentences such as a presumption of prison for anyone convicted of knife crime and addressing the fundamental causes of crime like drugs and family breakdown which Labour have done so much to neglect over the past decade.”
ACTE CARRIES UNWARRANTED LAPTOP SEIZURE ISSUE TO CONGRESS
Alexandria, Va. (25 June 2008) “ Less than 18 months after bringing the story of business travellers’ laptop seizures by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol Protection Service officials to the attention of the travel management profession, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) carried the issue to Congress. ACTE Executive Director Susan Gurley testified today before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, seeking major changes and concessions in the procedures used by authorities in seizing travellersâ laptops and electronic devices.
The issue is how can the government ensure the integrity of seized information, once it is determined that no criminal activity exists, said Gurley. What assurance does the travelling public have regarding the disposition of seized hardware and data now? What recourse do they have for retrieving it? Absolutely none. It simply disappears into the bowels of the U.S. Government. That is why the hearing today was so important.
Gurley suggested a number of procedural changes that would alleviate these problems. She recommended the committee seek a privacy impact assessment from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the number of laptop and other electronic devices seized, along with statements regarding the cause of the seizures, and the minimum and maximum amount of time it should take to return the device to its owner.
ACTE’s Executive Director also requested published policies for protecting the integrity of all data. These policies would list how and where the data will be stored, other agencies that could have access to it, the circumstances that would allow other agencies to access it, and how that information would be destroyed.
ACTE represents corporations with hundreds of thousands of business travellers in the air on any given day, with millions crossing U.S. borders during the year. All carry electronic devices and all are currently subject to the claimed authority of DHS officials to inspect and seize these electronic devices without suspicion, or warrant, said Gurley.
Gurley made a compelling argument as to why laptops and other devices should not be construed as mere baggage subject to inspection. “In today’s wired, networked and borderless world, one’s office no longer sits within four walls or a cubicle; rather, one’s office consists of a collection of mobile electronic devices,” said Gurley. “Under the U.S. Constitution, a warrant is needed to search a physical space, such as an office. Yet, the unanticipated seizure of one’s mobile office has been allowed to occur and can immediately deprive an executive or company of the very data and revenue, a business trip was intended to create.”
According to Gurley, a laptop seizure can effectively lock executives out of their virtual offices and even threaten their professional standing. ACTE surveyed its members in February 2008 on this issue; 50 percent of the respondents stated that having a laptop seized could cast doubt on a traveller’s character.
DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS IN IRAN: US HAS NOT YET LEFT HOPE
Condoleeza Rice reently affirmed that the United States is supporting diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s sensitive nuclear work but could not say if Tehran would respond positively. “The point we are making is that the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy”, said Rice. Rice sent a top diplomat to Geneva to join EU foreign policy cief Javier Solana and Iran’s top negotiator.
Under Secretary of State William Burns is due to meet Iran’s top negotiator Saeed Jalili in the presence of EU’s negotiator Javier Solana.
US ELECTIONS 2008
The democratic candidate Barack Obama is embarking on a tour of Europe, Middle East and Afghanistan to get a first hand view of international trouble spots. The sceptics point out that it is just an exercise to get more votes at home from those who still think that he is an ignoramus as far as international problems are oncerned. It may also be an eye opener for him to know the gravity of situation in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
DR. SACHIN CHOPRA : RESIDENT OF THE YEAR
Dr. Sachin Chopra was recently awarded the “Resident of the Year” Award at Long Island Jewish/ North Shore Health System at Plainview from Dr. Gary Rachlin, Director of Medical Education. The LIJ/North Shore Health System is ranked as one of the best Academic Medical Centers in the United States by US News and World Report
Dr. Sachin Chopra is the senior resident of this acute care community hospital that treats patients with a wide range of medical, surgical, pediatric, obstetric and gynecological conditions. The residents of the hospital are actively involved in medically stabilizing patients for the sameday surgery program, and working long hours in an extremely busy Emergency Department, which features a Chest Pain Emergency Room. The latter is a separate area where patients with cardiac complaints are immediately assessed.
Plainview Hospital is also the site of one of the Don Monti Cancer Centers. When dealing with acute and chronic illnesses, residents are taught to incorporate the needs of the surrounding community in order to deliver holistic treatment to patients in addition to the allopathic treatments. This is especially important in regards to the Indian community as Hicksville, Long Island (located 5 minutes from Plainview hospital) contains a large Indian population, and the hospital is located across the street from the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center.
In Dr. Sachin Chopra’s acceptance speech, he thanked his family and colleagues, and was honored to be a part of the medical team that is dedicated to patient care. He was also eager to bring about change, and encouraged those around him, to improve the North Shore Health care system in the years to come.